Stressed woman suffering migraine with a laptop sitting in a table at home
Stressed woman suffering migraine with a laptop sitting in a table at home

As a diet rich in omega-3 is linked to reduced migraines, here’s how to get more into your diet

The fatty acids have lots of benefits for your brain and body, says Liz Connor.

Liz Connor
Thursday 01 July 2021 11:20

If you’re unlucky enough to suffer with regular migraines that make you want to curl up in a dark room and avoid all light and noise, chances are you’ve already spent a good proportion of your time Googling how best to relieve them.

Unfortunately there’s currently no cure for migraines, but new research suggests eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids could help by reducing their frequency.

The small study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) involved 182 people who suffered migraines on five to 20 days a month and found that eating more of the polyunsaturated fatty acids could slash the debilitating headaches by two to four per month.

Omega-3s have also been linked to lower blood pressure, better heart health and a reduction in issues like depression and anxiety – but the tricky thing is that our body can’t produce them from scratch.

For this reason, we need to ensure we’re getting enough of them from dietary sources. Here are a handful to consider…

1. Look to fish

According to the NHS we should all aim to eat two portions of fish each week, including one of oily fish. Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies and sardines contain good amounts of EPA and DHA – long-chain, omega-3 fatty acids.

When you eat these kinds of fish, your body synthesises compounds called resolvins and protectins from the marine fatty acid. These important compounds can reduce chronic inflammation in the body, which scientists say is the genesis for many diseases and health conditions.

Fatty fish needn’t be expensive addition to your diet either, as you can easily add tinned varieties to salads and sandwiches.

2. Sprinkle some flaxseeds

You don’t have to eat seafood to access dietary Omega-3. While, EPA and DHA mainly come from animal foods, ALA is another kind that’s mostly found in plants.

Flaxseeds are a powerful plant-based source of ‘good’ fats that can deliver health benefits. They’re great stirred into porridge, added to smoothies or sprinkled onto a vegan power bowl.

3. Snack on walnuts

Walnuts are another dietary source of ALA that many people overlook. They’re great on their own as an afternoon snack, or you can smash and sprinkle them over salads, yoghurt or even stews and bolognaises.

Walnuts can often be expensive, but shop around at budget supermarkets like Lidl Aldi and Asda who sell packs of nuts at a much cheaper price than many health food stores.

4. Take a daily supplement

Dietary supplement tablets pouring out of container

If you’re vegan or vegetarian, it’s worth noting that the body has to convert the ALA from nuts and seeds into EPA and DHA through a chain of chemical reactions to bestow the same health benefits as fish varieties.

Unfortunately, this process isn’t as effective as consuming omega-3 directly from animal sources, as studies suggest that most people convert a small amount (less than 10%) of the ALA they eat into EPA and DHA.

For this reason, you might want to consider supplementing to ensure you’re getting enough. Traditional omega-3 supplements are made with fish oil, but there are lots of vegan varieties on the market that contain flaxseed oil, marine algae and seaweed instead.